There is a social nature in all of us, but the spectrum of the desired quantity of social interaction is broad.
As an introvert, I rarely crave social interaction. The amount of social interaction that I get organically with work, kids, school functions and family are more than exhausting on the social scale. What time I have left in my life, I nearly always desire to spend alone.
I constantly wrestle myself about this. I can never reconcile why I have such an aversion to interacting with people. I like these people. It’s not that I’m a recluse. I just don’t ever seem to have the mental energy to engage with them.
SOCIAL INTERACTION TOLERANCE RATIO
What I’ve recently realized is that it’s not the act of being social that puts me off, it’s the amount of social interaction that is too much. I am maybe a 50%er….meaning that I need to have at least 50% of my time when I can be alone, recharge and be quiet with my thoughts. If I can get that, then I’ll crave and seek out others for social time the other 50% of my day.
What I’m getting, in reality, is about 10% alone time, and for many days not even that. My days at work are often booked with meetings and other forced social interactions that definitely count toward my tolerance levels, but provide little value in the satisfaction scale of social content.
Then home with kids and family where smiles and joy levels go up! But also frustration and impatience as we interplay about dinner, homework, bedtime, chores, practices and all manner of things not on my list of glorious, self recharging activities.
When I think back to times in my life when I was much more social, it was always times when my amount of alone time was high. When I was young, fresh out of school, no forced social school interactions on a daily basis and I’d wake up and have to find people to talk to. Or just after my divorce, when the kids were gone every other week, and I had the house alone to myself during the evenings, and I had to find ways to fill social needs on my weekends.
So what am I going to do with this information? We’ll, armed with this new knowledge, I need to work to achieve that 50/50 balance. Not just in a single day, but also over time, on the weekends, over a month, the year.
If I have two weekends booked up this month, I need to work to keep the other two clear. If I have a week booked solid with meetings and practices and games, I need to understand that my weekend time will be precious and not over commit. If this entire month is crazy busy, I can look ahead to several quiet weekends in the coming months. I need to be selfish with my alone time, understanding that having it will make me a nicer, more tolerant, social individual when I have those interactions.
So find your social tolerance ratio. Are you an 80/20? 70/30? 50/50? Or even 10/90? Don’t beat yourself up for who you are. You have to find a balance that fits your brain and is nourishing to your spirit.
Think about your balance here, and take action. While social obligations are often in no short supply, it is only you who can look out for and prioritize your personal alone time.